Systems Integration / Optimization

Reliance drives culture change with a digital revolution

The huge Indian textile, refining and soon-to-be telecom provider streamlines from 500 legacy systems at 120 plants to just 35 standardized applications—and transforms its workplace environment at the same time.

By Jim Montague, executive editor, Control

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Everyone knows to keep it simple, but it's rare that any simplification project is as gigantic as Reliance Industries Ltd.'s recent effort to update and standardize many of the legacy process automation and other systems at six major sites containing 120 refining and petrochemical plants.

The 35-year-old, $62-billion firm started in textile milling and integrated vertically over the years into polyester polymer fibers, petrochemicals, refining, oil and gas and retail. Now, this December, it’s poised to become one of India's biggest 4G providers. The company operates probably the world's largest refining and petrochemical production complex in Jamnagar, India. Its vision is to reach $150 billion in annual revenues in the next five years and become a global Fortune 50 and most-admired company.

"We view automation as a competitive advantage, but how could we use it to help make the transformation we needed?" said Rahul Chaturvedi, senior vice president and CIO of the hydrocarbons division at Reliance. "We see smart operations as putting panel operators and other users in control of the ecosystem around them by providing visibility and access to situations that require action."

Chaturvedi presented "Establishing a Performance-Base Culture: How Digital Transformation Enables Smart Operations and Enterprise Optimization" on the third day of Honeywell User Group Americas 2015 in San Antonio, Texas.

Chaturvedi added that visibility and access for smart operations means breaking through traditional organizational silos of operational functions within plants and between different facilities. "Becoming future-ready also means we need to do reverse mentoring, to learn from our 20-year-olds and show millennials that we have a good place for them to work," added Chaturvedi. "Usually people drive implementation of new processes and systems, but we turned that upside down this time, and the technology enabled and drove our culture change."

Reliance worked with Honeywell Process Solutions, developing its Manufacturing Information Intelligence System (MIIS) to eliminate as many manual systems as possible and to go fully digital in functional areas such as operations, maintenance, reliability and safety. Other MIIS objectives were improved enterprise connectivity, increased real-time analytics and enhanced collaboration by oil and gas and chemical staffs that historically didn't interact much or exchange best practices.

"We and Honeywell went to all six sites and 120 plants over about six months and found they had about 500 legacy systems," explained Chaturvedi. "Next, we developed a reference architecture, which showed we could update with just 35 standard operations applications for product movement, blending, historian, alarming and other functions. Then we identified the areas most in need of digital transformation, including material transfers in health, safety, environmental and fire (HSEF) areas, manufacturing operations, reliability engineering and maintenance (REAM), and other automation and energy applications. Management agreed to our spend; we enlisted everyone, especially our panel-level operators; took about two-and-a-half years to implement the 35 applications; and finished in 2013."

Chaturvedi added that its MIIS project also allowed it to implement other common controls and historian equipment, establish better network connectivity, put generated data into the right contexts for the best analysis, and enable better decisions and actions. "This lets each users see the performance and context they need, which improved operations management and operator competency," said Chaturvedi. "We even integrated some Honeywell, GE, Invensys and AspenTech solutions that didn't want to talk to each other. We also improved connections between the 120 plants, our headquarters and Centers of Excellence (CoEs) that focus in 14 to 15 technical disciplines. This allowed the polypropylene CoE to get data from its applicable plants and applications, and let the crude oil CoE get its data from the right refineries, etc. They can also drill down to more detailed applications and equipment and collaborate much more easily.

"Likewise, our process engineering department can use a process monitoring engine built into MIIS, and if KPIs aren't performing right, then they can drill down even to plant schematics if needed, and find and fix what's out of range. Previously, equipment monitoring and performance information was on spreadsheets what were published once per month, but now we can use tools like Honeywell's Uniformance Asset Sentinel software to check performance once per hour and then make adjustments on the fly. 

"We've realized that our digital and cultural transformation isn't a destination, but is really an everlasting journey. We're even going to put our MIIS on mobile devices in the next couple of months."